Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Joseph Black, Northern Exposure, 2018

Album Review

I've been telling you about the work of New Jersey's Joseph Black for about five years now. It started when I stumbled upon his work as part of lo-fi pop duo Honeydrum. Black and Honeydrum collaborator, Ray Schwab, scaled their formula up a bit as Donovan Blanc and released a pair of LPs under that moniker with Captured Tracks (Mac DeMarco, DIIV, EZTV, Wild Nothing, more). For the past year or so, Black has been working on his solo debut. He released Northern Exposure last week digitally and on cassette via Chill Mega Chill Records, and the entirely solo effort is another showcase of Black's facility with retro-inspired, infectious pop.

Black wrote, played, recorded, mixed, and mastered everything on Northern Exposure in his New Jersey home. The result is a polished collection of songs steeped in the feel of 80s synth pop. Opener "Lonesome Dreams" is upbeat and ethereal, featuring handclaps and bright synths. The title track is a dreamy earworm that could soundtrack a montage in a coming of age film. Single "What If It's All Wrong?" brings in the sound of horns and is an absolute pop gem. The album drifts out on atmospheric closer "Cold Calling," with its piano and acoustic guitar.

Northern Exposure flows along seamlessly and without a single low point. As far as I can tell, Joseph Black has been one of the most under-the-radar artists and pop songsmiths from New Jersey or anywhere for a lot of years now. With Northern Exposure, he'll hopefully get his due.

Northern Exposure is out now on Chill Mega Chill Records.

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